Minus the Bear / Cursive / Caspian - Live in Boston (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Minus the Bear / Cursive / Caspian

Live in Boston (2012)

live show

My company and I thought we had arrived on time for Caspian's 8 p.m. set time, but despite doors opening at 7, there was still a fairly long line outside Boston's sold-out Royale club. Kind of a bummer to miss half the set, as what we did catch was great. I've been trying to get into Caspian's brand of ambient post-rock for a few years now, but neither their records nor their live show (I saw them play a local Long Island gig with Sainthood Reps in '09 or '10) did much for me. After moving to Salem, Mass., the band is now rather local to my residence, residing in the neighboring town of Beverly. I promise it isn't just hometown bias now when I say that they were wonderful. Even if they were likely pounding out some of their best and most accessible material, most of which I imagine derived from their new, highly acclaimed record, Waking Season. I believe they were in the middle of "Gone in Bloom and Bough" when we first walked in, a song with momentarily metronomic drumming, robotic, non-enunciated vocals and a quicker buildup than its length hinted at. The energetic five-piece seemed to have really won over the crowd in little time, with huge applause after every celestial crescendo. Great start to the night.

When Cursive came on to a bit of warm clapping and a somewhat cold response from the audience as a whole during their set, I was taken back a bit. Here was a band that's essentially a (punk-minded) indie rock institution by this point, and most people in the room didn't seem to be familiar with them at all. Minus the Bear hit that college-crossover popularity crest a few years back, sure, but it was weird to see Cursive in a truly, merely supporting role. Like this was an arena show or something. I've seen them in this position a couple times before (the Mastodon/Against Me! tour; their stint with Alkaline Trio) but even then, some in the crowd gave back the ragged energy with big, aggressive sing-alongs. Not here. Everyone was seemingly too old, polite or scattered about to make Cursive feel at home and it killed the vibe a little. The band played well enough, though. "A Gentleman Caller" received a blast of trumpet from touring multi-instrumentalist Patrick Newberry. "Warmer Warmer" was infused with a spazzy vibe that reminded me a lot of Texan noise-rockers the pAper chAse (again, largely thanks to Newberry). They splashed an alternate, vaguely '80s post-punkish guitar tone across "The Recluse" and upped its slow-jam vibes. "Art Is Hard" actually spurred a brief pit–"Shortest-lived mosh pit" vocalist/guitarist Tim Kasher initially awarded the action, but the tornado of bodies swept back up for closer "Dorothy," which really finished things with a teasing jolt of intensity, from both band and crowd.

Set list (8:48-9:32):

  1. This House Alive
  2. A Gentleman Caller
  3. Rise Up! Rise Up!
  4. Warmer Warmer
  5. The Radiator Hums
  6. Caveman
  7. The Sun and Moon
  8. The Recluse
  9. From the Hips
  10. Drunken Birds
  11. Art Is Hard
  12. Dorothy at Forty

The last time I saw Minus the Bear was actually at this very venue for their 10th anniversary tour, where they played their debut LP, Highly Refined Pirates, all the way through. While that show was cool as shit, it was nice to get a wider spread of their catalog for this show, including a healthy number of tracks from their new record, Infinity Overhead (which contains a few average songs, a bunch of good ones and a couple of their best to date). Frontman Jake Snider was looking a little more clean-cut than usual, while guitarist Dave Knudson remained ever the centerpiece showman, tapping away and hopping around like he had an injured appendage.

Menos El Oso opener "The Game Needed Me" felt less "bendy," smoothed out and heaped with more keys from synth op Alex Rose. Thankfully, "Diamond Lightning," the best track from Infinity Overhead, received its rightful live recreation. "Toska" got a bit of a tropical bridge, while OMNI "hit" and penultimate song in the proper set, "My Time," was a genuine shit-starter. Big balloons filled with silver confetti were released, spraying their contents across the audience when popped. Crowd surfers, damn the lack of a barricade, were passed around the front.

The epic "Cold Company" was sequenced well, closing the set (its "Kashmir" influence comes out real strong live, too). Real closer "Pachuca Sunrise" actually stirred kind of a pit, forgoing the loose, Bonnaroo-style jumping that had been the preferred dancing style of the night by plenty in the highly active, kinetic crowd. Also: lots more crowd-surfing, and a mean sax by Rose. It might just be another promotional cycle for MtB now, but there's no denying they still know damn well how to get an audience moving, and continue to treat their impressive song catalog with ever-so-slightly deviations that keep them fresh for the live setting.

Set list (10:03-11:13):
  1. Steel and Blood
  2. Lies and Eyes
  3. The Game Needed Me
  4. Throwin' Shapes
  5. Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse
  6. Into the Mirror
  7. Diamond Lightning
  8. Toska
  9. Knights
  10. Hooray
  11. Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo
  12. Empty Party Rooms
  13. White Mystery
  14. My Time
  15. Cold Company
    Encore (11:15-11:33):
  16. Dr. L'ling
  17. Lonely Gun
  18. Pachuca Sunrise